Hundreds of North East children and teenagers facing drug and alcohol problems are set to benefit thanks to a £60,000 funding boost.
The University of Sunderland will be working with the city’s Youth Drug and Alcohol Project (YDAP) to ensure vulnerable young people are getting the best access to care in addressing their problems.
Researchers at the University have secured the funding from Alcohol Research UK, allowing them to help YDAP in supporting some of the most at risk teens.
YDAP works with young people aged between 11 and 18 who are dealing with alcohol and drug problems, from those who have been experimenting with substances to those with more serious addiction issues.
Public Health experts from the University, in collaboration with Professor Newbury-Birch at Teesside University, will use the money to evaluate and support YDAP in providing the best access to treatment possible.
Work is expected to start on the pioneering partnership in June and continue until August 2019.
John Mooney, Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Sunderland and Public Health Specialist with Sunderland Council, said: “The money will allow us to support the project and look more closely at the services it offers.
“We will be able to assess if earlier intervention is needed and make sure the right people are getting access to the right services.
“Based on the evaluation we do, we will be able to make recommendations not only to YADP but also share our findings with similar projects across the country.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure the young people in Sunderland are able to receive the best access to help they can.”
Between April 2017 and March this year, 275 young people were referred to the Sunderland city centre-based project.
Those seeking support include teenagers with alcohol dependency issues, as well as young people using drugs including cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and prescription drugs.
Jim Kennedy, Manager for YDAP, said: “Drugs and alcohol are no respecters of your background.
“We offer 1-2-1 counselling, group sessions, we work in the community and in schools.
“Many of the teenage girls we work with are dealing with issues around alcohol, while cannabis tends to be the most prolific substance we are faced with.
“We have worked with a young person aged just 11 on issues around alcohol. Unfortunately, we have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol in this region and people are introduced to it from a very young age.
“Working with the University of Sunderland will mean we are getting an independent perspective on the project. Through their evaluation we will be able to make sure our services are reaching the right people at the right time.”
YDAP is based in High Street West in Sunderland and is currently working with some of the city’s most vulnerable young people.
This boy was referred to YDAP by his mum in 2017.
She was worried that he was using a large amount of cannabis and had experimented with ecstasy.
The mum also told how their relationship was not good, and that he would tell her he was sleeping over at a friend’s house, and when she rang, he was not there.
At the initial appointment the boy was very emotional, and spoke at length about how his substance use had impacted on his relationship with his mother in particular.
Given the his level of vulnerability, the allocated worker initially spent time getting to know him better, and building up an environment of trust, that led to the starting of the assessment and care plan process, with the boy’s full involvement.
Very early the young person told the worker that he wished to be drug free and in order to do that would have to look at his peer group, and this would only help improve the relationship he had with his mother.
After a few weeks the young person started to talk in terms of starting to feel better about himself, and how he thought that his relationship was starting to improve with his mum.
By the end of the first month of engagement with his allocated worker, he was exploring how he could get back into school full time, and had agreed to engage in the sports sessions that had been organised by the youth advocates.
After another couple of appointments, the worker suggested a drug test, which the young person agreed to in a couple of weeks time, by which he was back in school full time and attending sports sessions three times per week.
He also informed the worker that he was engaging with a new peer group and felt much better.
A drug test was undertaken and showed him to be clear of all substances. At the last appointment, the young person was discharged from the service drug free.